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For Christmas Eve dinner we like to eat a baked Camembert and nothing else.  It is pure indulgence and feels very wicked, but it is a tradition of our own making and it feels like something special.

We bake the Camembert in its box – just take the lid off and pull open the paper.  This time I scored the cheese with a cross, added a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a garlic clove, sliced in half and wedged into the cut cheese. 

After about 15-20 minutes it comes out as gooey liquid cheese encased in its rind – which is my favourite part of it.  It goes a bit crispy but chewy at the same time.

Usually we just have a bowl of rustic bread, roughly cut into hunks to dip into the cheese.  This year we also opened a jar of Real Ale chutney to go with it. 

Although I can be a purist when it comes to dishes like this, refusing to dilute the taste of hot runny cheese and bread, I must admit a dab of chutney with it was delicious.

We ate it in front of a cosy log fire…

Does anyone else have Christmas traditions they’ve created for themselves?

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As promised, and as always, a simple recipe for a delicious meal.  A salad of lettuce, peas and ham inspired by Nigel Slater

If you’re a regular reader, you will have realised by now that original recipes always get changed in our house.  Sometimes you don’t always have all the ingredients at home or it’s not sensible to go out buying them all.  Sometimes you must make do and create new recipes from substitute ingredients.  This is the joy of cooking that I love.

A yummy way to use up a lettuce glut as we have.  You can’t beat the taste of homegrown lettuce and local peas.  The homemade French dressing recipe to follow.

A salad of lettuce, peas and ham

Fresh peas straight from their pod
A couple of slices of free range ham (thicker is better here)
Baby gem lettuces
A hunk of good quality white bread
A piece of Jarsleburg cheese
Homemade French dressing

Pod your peas and place in a bowl. 

Wash and slice your baby gem lettuces – add to the peas.

Shread the ham and cut the cheese into cubes.  Add these to the peas and lettuce.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a fry pan.  Tear up the soft inners of the bread (no crusts).  Once the oil is hot, add the pieces of bread and fry until golden.

Add the crispy bread to the salad and drizzle over homemade French dressing – you can add a little cream to the standard dressing if you wish, something that Nigel’s recipe calls for.

Warm Winter Salad

Somehow I think a dish like this for dinner won’t fill us up – certainly not a hungry man.  But it does.  And it’s incredibly satisfying and you’re not left wanting more.

Our winter salad leaves came from the ever wonderful Unicorn Grocery and our eggs were the loveliest organic free range eggs from Abbey Leys’ broody bunch.

Here’s how to make it…

Warm Winter Salad

Warm salad of winter leaves, crispy pancetta and a poached egg

Serves 2 for a scrumptious dinner or a light lunch

Couple of handfuls of winter leaves
6-8 thin slices of pancetta
2 eggs
Half a ciabatta loaf
1 clove of garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Tear up the ciabatta into bite-sized pieces and spread out on a baking sheet.  Thinly slice the garlic and sprinkle over the ciabatta, along with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Bung in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the ciabatta starts to go golden.

Whilst the ciabatta is crisping up, put a pan of boiling water on ready to poach your eggs.

Place your salad leaves in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil and toss well.  Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.

Once the 5 minutes is up, quickly remove the baking tray from the oven and lay the slices of pancetta on top of the ciabatta.  Pop back in the oven for about another 5 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs.  This is how I poach eggs:

1) bring a pan of water to a simmer
2) I add a dash of white wine vinegar to help the eggs as I’m never confident without it!
3) carefully crack your egg into a small ramekin so the yolk doesn’t burst
4) using a spoon, I start to rapidly mix the water to create a whirlpool effect in the middle
5) carefully pour the egg into the centre of the pan where the whirlpool is and pray that it holds together! 

Usually I just judge by eye when the egg is how I like it – with a runny golden yolk.  I do one egg at a time.  For a more accurate way to poach eggs I’d suggest Delia.

Whilst your eggs are poaching, start to plate everything else up.

Pop a good handful of dressed winter leaves onto your plate.  Follow this with a scattering of the crunchy, garlicky ciabatta croutons.  Next I lay over the crispy pancetta.

Finally, as the eggs are ready carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain for a moment.  Gently rest the poached egg in the nest of leaves, croutons and pancetta and dust with a little sea salt and black pepper.

Now cut open that beautiful orb encased in its fluffy white cloud to let that silky golden yolk dribble down over the croutons and pancetta.  Yum-ee.

Warm Winter Salad

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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